In his daily life Charlemagne affected the simple manners of his Frankish forebears, wore Frankish clothes, and led a frugal existence. He was beatified after his death and in some churches has been honored as a saint. Surrounded by his legendary 12 paladins, he became the central figure of a cycle of romance. At first, legend pictured him as the champion of Christendom; later he appeared as a vacillating old man, almost a comic figure. His characterization in the Chanson de Roland (see Roland) has impressed itself indelibly on the imagination of the Western world. The vogue of the Charlemagne epic ebbed somewhat after the Renaissance but was revived again in the 19th cent. by Victor Hugo and other members of the Romantic school. Charlemagne's creation (or re-creation) of an empire was the basis of the theory of the Holy Roman Empire; it was his example that Napoleon I had in mind when he tried to assume his succession in 1804.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.